A fighting spirit and cheeky sense of humour have helped a quick-witted grandmother of 16 to reach her 100th birthday.
Today Mary Atack will celebrate her milestone birthday with loved ones, the team and residents at Sanctuary Care’s Hastings Residential Care Home, where she has lived for over two years.
Born to parents Thomas and Jane Worthington, Mary was the eldest of four children – her sister Vera, aged 92 is still alive today and lives in Evesham.
Growing up in Willenhall, Staffordshire, Mary was a devoted big sister and spent a lot of time looking after her youngest brother Les.
Leaving school at the age of 13, Mary joked that her lack of sporting prowess caused her much embarrassment, especially during one particular netball match, which was “a disaster”.
She said: “A girl I was playing with was very light and she was everywhere, making me look bad – people used to say ‘aren’t you a big girl’ – they made me feel like a carthorse!”
Mary married George in 1937 when she was just 23 and the year after the World War Two broke out, the couple’s first child Keith was born. George was often called out during air raids to deactivate incendiary bombs dropped by enemy planes.
Mary said: “I didn’t believe in wars and it was worrying when he was out. I used to place Keith under the table in case bricks dropped from the ceiling.”
The couple went on to have daughters Valerie and Barbara. The family didn’t have a lot of money but Mary loved cooking and made the children clothes and toys. When they were older she went back to office work at the age of 48.
Sadly George passed away in 1990 following heart problems. Mary did find love again after meeting Ken, whom she married at the age of 88. Ken, who was eight years her junior used to be a volunteer for a company supplying the machine she frequently uses to play talking books.
When asked her secret to reaching her centenary she said: “I feel very proud to have reached 100 and can’t believe it. I don’t feel 100 some days. I think I’m just lucky because I’ve still got some of my marbles!
“I’m so thoroughly grateful – I feel looked after here. I’ve also got a good sense of humour and a cheeky personality and that’s helped – I’m still a child!”
The love of her family, including her seven grandchildren and nine great grandchildren, has also kept her strong.
“My children are my life and still are,” she added.
Mary loves listening to classical music. She joked: “I like all music except that pop stuff – I can’t stand it!”
During her later life the birthday girl loved travelling to destinations such as Austria, Switzerland, France, Norway and Spain with her brother Les.
She loved watching dancing although confesses that she wasn’t very good at it because she “felt clumsy.”
Mary also loved sewing and always has with her a cuddly dog which she made – which she joked is called ‘Eyeshigher’, because she sewed one eye on higher than the other.
Daughter Valerie, who lives in Malvern, said: “I am the person I am partly because of Mum.
“I will never forget the lessons she taught me on honesty – things change and she has gone from being my Mum to a good friend.
“Mum is a fighter and is very strong – she’s had to be strong all her life.”
Manager at Hastings Residential Care Home in Barnard’s Green Road, Sue Milward said: “Mary is an inspirational woman – she is so quick witted and her sense of humour and cheeky nature makes us all smile. We are so proud to be celebrating this special day with her and are honoured to have Mary in our home.”